Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Back in February I started planting hot peppers from seed. I believe I started with 17 varieties of vegetables, most of them peppers. We have been harvesting the peppers since July and have found that everyone in the house can handle a different level of Capsaicin with each variety having a different scoville rating. Our peppers range from none to over a million with the Jalapeno at 5 to 10 K being the most generally known hot pepper and the Carolina Reaper at 1.5 Million being the hottest. Some in the house can't be in the same room with the peppers. Others can eat the hottest but it's disabling. Everyone needs to religiously wash their hands with soap and water after touching even the Jalapenos, never mind the Haberneros, Ghost and Carolina Reapers before proceeding with life's tasks or face a discomfort that while not akin to the wrath of God in duration can come close to it for several earthly minutes. Thus " pepper spray" as a defense weapon. If you are concerned about safety I think this might be a great idea if legal in your area.
Now to the point. Just as peppers have different ratings from zero to over a millions units on the scoville scale, so too the presence of the divine can be felt to different degrees. And just as some folks can gradually increase their ability to taste and even enjoy hotter peppers over time, so too can we gradually increase our ability to experience the PRESENCE not only in greater intensity but in more normal everyday circumstances outside of Meeting for Worship. If you don't understand what I am talking about I suggest you pick up and read the classic "Practicing the Presence of God". If you do understand please offer your suggestions on how to invite more and more of the "PRESENCE" into your life and your struggles, if any, with being so heavenly minded as to be earthly useless. After reading about Brother Lawrence go on to any of the books about the quietists including "A Guide to True Peace".
This is not to mention those times when we unknowingly eat a dish spiced with a hot pepper beyond our expectations or experience and our attention is riveted to what is taking place within us. So too occasions arrive in our life when we are unexpectedly overpowered by the PRESENCE and our attention is riveted to what is taking place within us on an altogether different level. I am talking about Paul being knocked to the ground and naturally blinded; the transfiguration; Peter's vision of and invitation to eat the unclean animals; visitations from angels who open prison doors; or arrival of a chariot to carry us away to wherever our destiny lies. These are life changing and monumental occasions but for many are too infrequent or never experienced at all, to which I repeat what the resurrected Jesus said to Thomas - Blessed are they who have not seen yet believe.
Fortunately such spectacular visitations of the PRESENCE are not necessarily the moments of peace that the Angels sang of at the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Those moments are around us always just as the Kingdom of God is amongst us in the PRESENCE.
Hi James: In Romans 10: 13-21, Paul discusses the arrival of faith: "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (v.17). When the gospel (the power of God) is ministered, it reaches to the witness of God in others. Fox said that he took people to Christ (through his ministry) and then left them there. Hearing gospel ministry is one way that people can find faith, which explains Quaker gospel ministers' travel and preaching.
As for pursuing the Presence "by faith" before it is known, Paul and Isaiah don't put much stock in it (Rom. 10:20 and Isa. 65:1), reason being that people would actually be looking for something entirely different from the Presence, something that was the product of their natural desire or fear. Scriptures advise repentance to those who want to be proactive.
I did say it was "like" something you pursue by faith but in any event Faith can come before Presence. "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" and as the scriptures further say if we already have what we hope for it is not hope because we don't hope for what we already have. So if we hope to feel the presence of God or the Divine in our life we have to start somewhere and I guess that would be with hope. Now Hope is the anchor of our faith which means just because we don't understand leadings of faith we don't abandon faith itself and our leadings but we persist in the hope that God is faithful and our faith will triumph. I believe most of us encourage those who are seekers to read the Bible or books about great men and women of God in the expectation that the Spirit will quicken the words and bring that faith that will germinate within them creating a desire for more knowledge of the Divine Presence including the experience of the Presence itself which is the transforming power of God to those who will allow it to be so.
The story of the three wise men is a decent example of reading a spirit inspired word that gives rise to faith that leads to a journey to find the Presence.
I feel the presence through the practice of mind,body and spirit. By eating a vegetarian diet, by practicing meditation, by being mindful of the ten commandments especially thou shall not kill, and thou shall not commit adultery, and by honoring my relationship to the sacred. These things bring me closer to the living Christ, The presence of God for me today maybe nothing more than the spirit of hope, but like you have shared by washing our hands clean of what burns which in many cases is seen as sin, we can look at all of Gods creation and call it divine. At times I feel the presence is just that divine inspiration with the call to act according to Gods will for us in the moment.